Stepping Out of Your Head with Street Photography: The Meditative Process

My name is Tom Souzer and I’m a self taught photographer from Pittsburgh PA . I’ve been shooting the streets of Pittsburgh for about two years now. I tend to focus on emotions, expressions, and fleeting moments. I personally like to not be seen while I’m out shooting (although it does happen from time to time) because I want to capture moments as they happen. I edit mostly in black and white using lightroom then Silver Efex Pro. I shoot with a fuji x pro 1 using either a 18mm or 23mm lens. When people hear that I shoot digital they automatically think that I’m using autofocus but I would say 99% of the time I’m zone focusing.

Why did you get into photography?

To capture moments. I used to take a lot of photos of my everyday life when I was younger. Whether I was out with friends or walking in the woods in my hometown I usually had a camera.

What photographers are your biggest influences?

So many! Friedlander, Ed Templeton, Troy Holden, Winogrand, Bill Burke, Mark Cohen, Ted Pushinsky, the guys over at Hamburger Eyes, Vivian Maier. I could go on and on…

How long have you been shooting?

Since I was like 16 or 17, I took my first darkroom class in 9th grade. So like off and on for 15 years or so!

Why is photography and shooting so important to you?

It’s relaxing it’s almost like I can step out of my head while I’m out wandering the streets.

Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?

I think I’m documenting a time during a big change in Pittsburgh. We’re slowly becoming a tech city with uber and google moving in. The city has changed a lot since I first started walking around downtown. 

What’s typically going through your mind when you create images?

I’m usually just focusing on things happening in front of me. I try not to think too much. I used to think too much and I would miss shots. Now I tend to just take the photo and think after I take the photo.

Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?

My process depends on the day really. Sometimes it’s more of a longer process than other days. If I’m feeling a bit nervous on a certain day I usually have to push through that. So mentally it takes a little more work to put the camera to my eye and shoot the photo. It’s funny you would think that feeling would go away but it really never does. Once you get a shot though that all changes. It’s a great feeling to leap that hurdle.

Want to walk us through your processing techniques?

Sure! So I shoot in RAW on my fuji x pro 1, once I get home I’ll hop on my laptop and drop the keepers into lightroom. I usually turn my highlights down and change blacks accordingly. I’ll export everything to silver effex pro and use one of my presets that I edited to my liking. Thats about it.


What made you want to get into your genre? Tell us a bit about the gear you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision

I’ve always had an interest in people. I moved to the city around five years ago to be a bike messenger. While I was out working I would see all of these interesting things happening. Interesting faces, events, and emotions with the city in the background and I knew I had to capture it. So I use a fuji x pro 1 to take photos with while I’m downtown. It helps me achieve my creative vision in numerous ways – it’s inconspicuous, light, and the external controls allow me to change my settings on the fly.

What motivates you to shoot?

People! I love seeing moments happening and when I can capture one it’s one of the best feelings I can think of.

All photos and text by Tom Souzer. Used with permission. Be sure to follow Tom on Instagram @tomsouzer


Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.